[GUIDE] Andrew’s Approach to To-Do Lists with Google Keep

Monday, October 20, 2014 @ 7:18 pm

I’m no different from many people nowadays, with a lot on my mind and many things on the go, constantly. While I am fully cognizant of the risk of being overly reliant on technology, over the past year or so I’ve developed my own structured process in listing out and managing my short-term and long-term life using Google Keep, and I’d like to share it with you (you being friends and strangers).

Like many, I love installing and testing out software and apps. While I recognize Any.do and Wunderlist, two excellent to-do list managers in their own right (honourable mention to Evernote as well), I felt that Google Keep met my requirements:

  • minimalistic and bare-bones
  • cross-browser and cross-platform
    • not having to create a new account or connect it with an account is a plus
  • offline access
  • both checkbox list and notepad functionality (in addition to a few other functionalities)
  • free is always nice
  • maintain list of past list items and have an undo feature

Google Keep is probably the most frequently accessed app on my devices, and it especially helps that I can access it from any: laptops, desktop, tablet, and/or phone.

I can update it in places without cellular or wireless service (e.g. the subway), and later have it automatically sync by itself when I do have data access.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, after roughly a year of using Google Keep, I’ve settled on a To Do list structure and process that has really helped me manage my life.

I present to you, my to-do list:

Andrew's To Do List

(semi-fictional data of course)

Legend:

  • A – My Online Orders
  • B – My Money-Related Items
  • C – My Vague Short-Term Tasks (with no particular deadline)
  • D – My Known Short-Term Tasks (with known dates, times, locations)
  • E – My Intermediate-to-Long-Term Tasks

Semantics:

  • Items are usually ordered in each respective section in terms of priority or date (most urgent/upcoming)
  • The basic structure of an entry for sections A and D, is:
    • Date – Item – Supplementary Information
    • e.g. “Tue – 7pm Dinner at Location A”
  • Date:
    • If this current week, only the week day is entered (e.g. “Fri”)
    • If next week or beyond, the actual date is entered after the week day (e.g. “Fri 31”)
    • If unknown, a question mark is entered
  • For A – Online Orders, I like to keep track of tracking numbers and shipment carriers (so I can quickly track the progress of the order easily)
  • For D – Known Short-Term Tasks, I like to be as detailed while concise, so I usually enter time, event name, person’s name, and location (e.g. “7pm Dinner, John Doe, McDonalds”)

Making It Work:

Regularity:

Naturally, I go through my To-Do List every day and tick things off shortly after I complete them or at the end of the day. And I have to say, ticking an item off your list is an amazing feeling.

Prioritization:

If an Intermediate/Long-Term Task suddenly becomes Short-Term, I just simply drag and drop it (and enter a date if known). And vice-versa.

As mentioned before under the Semantics section, I typically order my items in order of importance or date.

Updating the Dates:

Usually over the weekend, I go through my  D – Known Short-Term Tasks items and update the dates.

For example, if my list prior to the weekend (assuming this upcoming weekend, Sat., Oct. 25 – Sun., Oct 26) was:

  • Mon 27 – 3pm Meeting with Jane Doe
  • Wed 29 – Buy Halloween Costume
  • Mon 3 – 7pm Dinner

It’d be changed to:

  • Mon – 3pm Meeting with Jane Doe
  • Wed – Buy Halloween Costume
  • Mon 3 – 7pm Dinner

At a quick glance, I can tell that the first two tasks are upcoming (this week), and the third one is the next week.

One Size Does Not Fit All:

In closing, what I’ve presented and outlined above is what I found works for me, which may not necessarily work best for you. But my wish in putting this blog entry together is that this gives you some ideas to take this and make it your own (if you feel you want or need to of course).

And just as a footnote: while technology and these various apps are great (if leveraged and applied well), it’s important not to be overly reliant or dependent on them as technology can (and quite frequently does) fail. It’s important to be able to remember and do key things using your own brainpower. It’s scary to think about how the Internet and technology is changing the way humans think, and the impacts on long-term human memory.

If you must remember anything, always remember the big picture.